Along with exercise and diet, sleep is the third pillar of physical health. As the leading sleep supplement with over 2 million capsules sold, Rilax Zzz has been helping Malaysians get better sleep since 2009. For World Sleep Day 2016, the team at Rilax Zzz wanted to explore the idea of ‘sleep journaling’.
According to the American National Sleep Foundation, keeping a sleep diary can help you track your sleep, allowing you to see habits and trends that may be keeping you from achieving healthy, regular sleep and that can be improved. “As Rilax Zzz is an all-natural product, we believe in all-natural methods of improving your sleep. Some people may sleep well certain nights of the week, but not other nights; but even one night of bad sleep can affect your entire weekly schedule. Some people may have a medical condition affecting their sleep, while others might only need some simple lifestyle changes to improve their sleep naturally. Hence, before knowing what might be wrong with your sleep habits, keeping a sleep diary can be the first step towards revealing what might be causing certain sleep disruptions, and let you improve them on your own,” said Aileen Chan, CEO of LiveLife Sdn Bhd (developer of Rilax Zzz).
In developing the Rilax Zzz Sleep Journal, the Rilax team wanted a journal that was easy to fill and would not take more than a few minutes to answer, with questions covering general lifestyle habits. According to research, there were a few lifestyle habits that were predominantly known to affect sleep:
Food & drink consumption
Having a meal that’s too heavy at night and/or consuming some foods that may be difficult to digest such as spicy food consumed too close to bedtime could be taxing on your digestive system, making it uncomfortable to get soothing sleep. Other substances such as caffeine, sugar and even alcohol can also cause sleep disruption such as delayed bedtime or inability to achieve deep sleep. The catch-22 with alcohol is that while it may help you fall asleep faster, you may experience frequent awakenings, less restful sleep, headaches, night sweats and nightmares. Needless to say, consuming food and especially fluid that may cause nightly trips to the bathroom should also be avoided. Heavy meals ought to be consumed a safe few hours (at least four) before bedtime.
[Information sourced from Webmd]
As exercise triggers an increase in body temperature, and the post-exercise drop in temperature may promote falling asleep. The American National Sleep Foundation says moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as walking) reduced the time it took to fall sleep and increased the length of sleep.
[Information sourced from the American National Sleep Foundation]
While there have been many articles suggesting that your workout should be performed earlier in the day as the body temperature increase caused by exercise will make it difficult to fall asleep, getting regular exercise should be the first priority. “Most of all, find a time that helps you make your exercise a regular, consistent part of your life,” says Aldana, a professor of lifestyle medicine in the department of exercise sciences at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. “This is more important than the time of day.”
[Excerpt from WebMD]
Whether a mobile phone, PC, tablet or TV, devices are something we should detach from before bedtime. “One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation,” says Mark Rosekind, PhD, former director of the Fatigue Countermeasures Program at the NASA Ames Research Center and president and chief scientist at the scientific consulting firm Alertness Solutions. He explains that the physical act of responding to a video game or even an email makes your body tense, and as your brain revs up, its electrical activity increases and neurons start to race — the exact opposite of what should be happening before sleep.
Furthermore, the light emitting from your electronics also affect sleep quality. The small amounts of light from these devices pass through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities) and delay the release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
Finally, the comfort of your sleep environment (ie. your bedroom) plays a role in your sleep quality. Experts from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, advise thinking of a bedroom as a cave: It should cool, quiet, and dark.
[Excerpt from WebMD]
The journal began with some general questions such as asking participants to describe their overall well-being, such as stress level at work, and mood. Next, the journal went on to quick-answer daily queries, split into ‘Before Bed’ and ‘The Morning After’. The questions covered:
- Last meal before bedtime,
- Exercise performed in the day,
- Usage of devices before bed,
- General busyness throughout the day (such as at work), and
- General comfort of sleep environment
- How many hours of sleep was achieved,
- If sleep the night before was interrupted (and why), and
- General perceived energy levels/mood before bed and when waking up
“Besides designing our journal and choosing questions that would not take more than a few minutes to answer, it was important for us that our participants didn’t feel shy to share their sleep observations, so we made sure to encourage our ‘sleep journalists’ to be honest with their answers. We also gave them little tips on keeping a journal for example keeping it next to their bed so they can fill it up quickly day and night,” said Aileen.
Many fans of Rilax Zzz wrote in, most of whom were genuinely concerned about their own sleep habits and volunteered themselves as ‘sleep journalists’. All the participants were Malaysian, and were of the ‘working professionals’ age and were mostly based in the Klang Valley and/or Peninsula Malaysia.
After a few weeks, a number of sleep journalists were generous enough to share their sincere findings from their own sleep diary with the team at Rilax Zzz. Among the interesting findings were:
- Participants hardly ever achieved the recommended 8 hours of recommended daily sleep, but averaged 7 hours quite regularly.
- Even when achieving adequate hours of sleep, many still didn’t feel ‘refreshed’ and reported still feeling ‘tired’ in the morning. This was likely due to busy periods at work and generally busy lifestyles.
- Generally, people were awakened mid-sleep due to illnesses such as gastric pain, sciatica, and others.
- Discomfort in the bedroom environment could prove disruptive to sleeping through the night such as temperature that was too cold (from air-conditioning) or too hot (from weather)
- Participants agreed that patronizing electronic devices such as watching TV series before bed could end up distracting and keep them up and not going to bed on time
- Regardless of the amount of sleep achieved, participants consistently answered feeling ‘tired’ both before bed and when waking up surrounding busy days at work, and on the other hand answered feeling ‘relaxed / refreshed’ on the days they would have off from work.
- Some participants demonstrated consistency between how much they achieved in the day and general positive mood; for example feeling ‘relieved’ or ‘refreshed’ after a productive day, and feeling ‘purposeful’ the morning after.
- One user reported feeling lethargic but reported better sleep for night(s) she consumed Rilax Zzz.
But most importantly,
- ALL participants agreed that keeping a sleep journal was truly an eye-opening experience that made them reflect on more than just sleep but their general lifestyle. Among the testimonials towards sleep journaling included:
- “Served as a good reflection of my sleep patterns/lifestyle though it took a little discipline,…”
Sue, 25, Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya
- “Keeping the journal forces a sort of discipline in my life. It does make me reflect how I put importance towards sleep.”
Nur, 30, Kayu Ara, Petaling Jaya
- “I am able to know my sleep pattern better, to avoid things that may affect my night sleep and minimize stress during night time.”
Hong, 35, Mont Kiara KL
- “It helps me track not only my sleep habits, but also my life.”
- “The sleep journal has helped me realise the actual routines I go through before bedtime and how it could have affected my sleep patterns. It has been quite useful and interesting.”
Sharon, 55, Tanjung Bungah, Penang.
With these results, the team at Rilax Zzz realized a few revelations of their own. “When we started the sleep journal project, we were hoping to see very clear correlations between what we thought would affect sleep; for example heavy dinners causing our participants to stay awake. But I’m glad to say that instead of that, we have learned lessons much more valuable from our ‘sleep journalists,” shares Aileen. Among the findings the Rilax Zzz team recorded were:
- People (especially in the Klang Valley) live very busy lives; and with a busy urban lifestyle comes the unlikeliness of achieving ideal sleep habits such as getting the recommended hours of sleep every night, or being able to control stress levels to allow better sleep. Every individual is different, and different lifestyles, professions and demands affect people differently. While it may be difficult for people to just immediately make changes to their schedule in order to get better sleep, keeping a journal may be a great first step into wanting to make conscious effort to improving sleep.
- Keeping a consistent sleep journal is not easy! Recording daily habits requires discipline, and some participants offered their honest sharing that they would likely not carry out a sleep journal again unless for purposes such as wanting to study their own periods of feeling unwell/unbalanced in order to improve their lifestyle.
This also encourages us to perhaps update and improve our Rilax Zzz sleep journal template to encourage wider and easier participation in the future.
And best of all,
- The sleep journal proved to be more about general lifestyle health than about sleep itself; and appropriately so as sleep is just one of the elements in one’s lifestyle and along with the other factors such as diet and stress are related to each other in the grand scheme of health and well-being.
In celebration of completing our first Sleep Journal project, the team at Rilax Zzz would like to make their sleep journal accessible to anyone who may want to journal their sleep habits at any time. Simply click on the link to download a sleep journal (complete with introductory guide) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get one emailed to you.